Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to modernise its professional development system

Press release, 13.04.2017

At its meeting of 12 April, the Federal Council has commissioned the FDFA to prepare the introduction of a new system for all categories of transferable staff within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). The aim of this change in system is to take better account of performance and give greater weight to the alignment of tasks and competencies than the principle of seniority. Accompanying measures are planned to take account of the specific nature of the transfer system – which requires employees working in the service of Swiss foreign policy to move to a new function every four years. The new system is scheduled to enter into force in 2019.

The increasingly complex environment in which it operates requires the FDFA to continually adapt its network of representations abroad (integrated embassies, regional consular centres) and priorities (working in fragile contexts). These developments also call for a coherent human resource policy. The Federal Council has therefore commissioned the FDFA to prepare the introduction of a new system for all categories of transferable staff within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). The new system will ensure equal treatment for everyone working at the FDFA in a ‘transferable’ position, i.e. diplomats, consular staff and SDC rotational staff.

Specifically, the two forms of professional development and staff remuneration currently in existence at the FDFA will be harmonised: the career (or semi-functional) system, which has barely changed in decades, is to be replaced in 2019 by a ‘function-based’ system already familiar to the rotational staff at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the rest of the Department and all of the Federal Administration. All transferable staff will thus work within a common and unified frame of reference that has been discussed with the employee representatives. As well as letting FDFA staff play a more active role in charting their career trajectories than at present and ensuring that the transfer process is conducted in accordance with transparent criteria, the new system will also permit the Department to react with greater flexibility to the various foreign policy priorities.

The mandatory nature and specificities of the transfer system will continue to be recognised. To that end, the change of system approved by the Federal Council is to be accompanied by measures intended to ease the transition of transferable staff to the function-based system. Employees who are subject to the transfer regime are contractually obliged to change posting every four years and thus more likely to be affected by reductions in salary than their colleagues in the rest of the Department or the Federal Administration. Therefore, as a responsible employer, the FDFA will introduce accompanying measures as a means of mitigating this risk, which does not exist under the current system, and of continuing to offer its staff salary development prospects throughout their entire career within the Department.

This decision concludes the Federal Council’s response to the six recommendations made by the Control Committee of the Council of States (CC-S) in its report entitled “Appropriate staff for the diplomatic service” (26 February 2016). It should be recalled that the government had already stated its position on parts of these recommendations in its reply of 18 May 2016 and otherwise asked the FDFA to launch a review process, specifically requesting that it look into discontinuing the career system for the consular and diplomatic services (recommendation 1) and improving the match between skills and tasks within the FDFA (recommendation 2).

Further information:

Reply of the Federal Council of 18 May 2016 to the “Appropriate staff for the diplomatic service” report of the CC-S of 26 February 2016

Report accompanying the proposal submitted to the Federal Council of 12.04.2017 (de)(pdf, 242kb)

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Information
Tel. +41 58 462 31 53


The Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs